“My dear lady, I live but on the chance of being permitted to listen to you—only in the hope that I may listen early and often—”
“Oh, hush! What a silly you are!”
“Silly, is it? Remember I was your childhood playmate. Would you have kept me on your string all these years if I were silly? And here’s another of my childhood friends! How do you do, most gracious lady?”
With courtly deference Elliott rose to greet Aunt Abby, who came into the living-room from Eunice’s bedroom.
Her black silk rustled and her old point lace fell yellowly round her slender old hands, for on Sunday afternoon Miss Ames dressed the part.
“How are you, Mason,” she said, but with a preoccupied air. “What time is Mr. Hanlon coming, Eunice?”
“Soon now, I think,” and Eunice spoke with entire composure, her angry excitement all subdued. It was characteristic of her that after a fit of temper, she was more than usually soft and gentle. More considerate of others and even, more roguishly merry.
“You know, Mason, that what we are to be told to-day is a most inviolable secret—that is, it is a secret until tomorrow.”
“Never put off till to-morrow what you can tell to-night,” returned Elliott, but he listened attentively while Eunice and Aunt Abby described the performance of the young man Hanlon.
“Of course,” Elliott observed, a little disappointedly, “if he says he hoaxed the crowd, of course he did; but in that case I’ve no interest in the thing. I’d like it better if he were honest.”
“Oh, he’s honest enough,” corrected Embury; “he owns right up that it was a trick. Why, good heavens, man! if it hadn’t been, he couldn’t have done it at all. I’m rather keen to know just how he managed, though, for the yarn of Eunice and Aunt Abby is a bit mystifying.”
“Don’t depend too much on the tale of interested spectators. They’re the worst possible witnesses! They see only what they wish to see.”
“Only what Hanlon wished us to see,” corrected Eunice, gaily. And then Hanlon, himself, and Alvord Hendricks arrived together.
“Met on the doorstep,” said Hendricks as he came in. “Mr. Hanlon is a little stage-struck, so it’s lucky I happened along.”
Willy Hanlon, as he was called in the papers, came shyly forward and Eunice, with her ready tact, proceeded to put him at once at his ease.
“You came just at the right minute to help me out,” she said, smiling at him. “They are saying women are no good at describing a scene! They say that we can’t be relied on for accuracy. So, now you’re here and you can tell what really happened.”
“Yes, ma’am,” and Hanlon swallowed, a little embarrassedly; “that’s what I came for, ma’am. But first, are you all straight goods? Will you all promise not to tell what I tell you before tomorrow morning?”
They all promised on their honor, and, satisfied, Hanlon began his tale.